Dr Naomi Kakoschke has recently discovered a revolutionary new way to lose weight for people who are overweight or obese. The study conducted by Dr Kakoschke at Monash University has shown that technology could be the answer to avoiding unhealthy food choices for people suffering with obesity. A simple tilt of a smartphone could be the key to encouraging healthier food choices and new treatment options for chronic obesity.

The new study led by Dr Kakoschke from the Monash Institute of Cognitive and Clinical Neurosciences, showed that a simple Approach-Avoidance Training could be the key to weight-loss. This type of therapy training uses engaging technology to deter unhealthy food cravings.

According to the World Health Organisation, obesity is now a global health concern, with statistics rising over more than double the amount over the past 30 years. Obesity is defined by having a body mass index in excess of twenty-five.

Obesity is partly driven by an ingrained cognitive bias towards high-calorie, indulgent foods. This recent study is designed to slowly change the cognitive responses to unhealthy foods and healthy foods. Previous studies on traditional methods such as, restrictive dieting, have shown a lack of success in changing the cognitive responses.

Among other researchers, Dr Naomi Kakoschke conducted the study on sixty women and men who were overweight or obese – using the newly developed cognitive based Approach-Avoidance Training. For one week in Melbourne the study was conducted using an iPhone app called Tilt Task, specifically created by the researchers for this study.

Participants were shown a variety food pictures, they were instructed to tilt their phone towards or away from themselves based on the portrait or landscape orientation of the image. The image size increased when participants tilted the phone towards themselves – creating a simulating approach. When the phone was tilted away from the participant the image size decreased – creating a simulating avoidance.

Contingencies of the task were manipulated to train a positive approach towards healthy food (image tilt: towards 90%; away 10%) and avoidance of unhealthy food (image tilt: 10% towards; 90% away).

Results showed a significant drop in the cognitive responses toward unhealthy food and a marked shift towards healthier food alternatives. Modest weight loss results were recorded in some of the participants after the study was conducted, cementing that this could be a powerful new way to augment weight-loss; when used in conjunction with other interventions.

According to Dr Kakoschke, the app was designed for participants to reject unhealthy food therefore, re-training their minds to adopt the same approach in their day-to-day lives.

“Smartphone apps are shown to be an engaging delivery mode for cognitive training because they provide a transportable, flexible, efficient and scalable way to manage preventive health conditions, such as weight gain,” Dr Kakosche said. “While medical consultation is essential for anyone battling severe weight problems, technological innovations like Tilt Task are just one proactive measure that people can use in the comfort of their home in order to make a significant lifestyle change.”

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